Lord Frost gives update on UK’s participation in Horizon Europe

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As part of the Brexit deal, the UK was granted continued membership in the Horizon Europe innovation fund, but the EU has since blocked the UK from the project until disputes are settled over the Northern Ireland Protocol and French fishing licences. The Horizon Europe project brings together scientists from across the world to combat disease, prevent climate change, and develop space technology.

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The UK was due to contribute £15billion to the project with a rolling total of £7billion more each year, and the delay in an agreement is creating major problems for the UK.

Funding cannot be released to UK collaborators until there is a formal agreement, and if it will take many more months for an agreement to be made, EU researchers will not include UK scientists in their projects.

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, told BBC News that exclusion from Horizon Europe would be a “significant blow” in efforts to combat cancer.

She added: “It will also put at serious risk the UK’s position of being at the forefront in the global effort in improving the prevention, treatment and diagnosis of cancer.

“The Government must strike a deal urgently for continued membership of Horizon Europe or the UK will weaken its position to collaborate and use science to address the global challenges we face.”

In response to the EU’s decision to use Horizon Europe as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations, Science Minister, George Freeman, has said the UK is ready to set up its own scheme.

And in a poll of 1,543 Express.co.uk readers, held on December 21, a staggering 93 percent of voters said Liz Truss should back out of the Horizon Europe deal that her predecessor, Lord David Frost, had pushed for.

Many readers felt the money for Horizon Europe should instead be spent on launching a similar scheme here in the UK.

One reader suggested: “Put the money into UK medicine and research and show them we can do it better.”

Another reader, Sam, said: “Forget the Horizon project and create our own.

“Anything to do with the EU should be stopped because, at the end of the day, they will use it as a threat against the UK.”

Another voter nicknamed ‘Honest Broker’ agreed: “You just cannot trust the EU.

“Who truly believes that based on their track record we will be treated fairly?

“They smile to our face then stab us in the back.”

But scientists from across the nation have stressed that the UK will be disadvantaged by refused membership to the Horizon scheme, and a UK-only scheme would not yield the same results.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, told BBC News that ”losing the agreement on UK participation in the world’s biggest international science funding programme at this stage, when it has already been negotiated and is ready to sign, would be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”.

He added: “While it’s natural for the government to plan for the worst-case scenario, we have to realise that any UK-only scheme would greatly disadvantage our scientists compared to the international opportunities that Horizon Europe opens up, with both the EU and many other countries that take part in it, such as Israel or Norway.”

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Earlier this month, scores of health companies signed the European Health Stakeholder Group’s letter to the EU demanding that the UK be allowed to re-join Horizon Europe as soon as possible.

The letter read: “Together, we have significantly advanced health care across Europe, saving and improving citizens’ lives.

“Going forward, we must continue to work together in order to meet the challenges of our swiftly changing world.

“We stand with our colleagues in the EU’s research and innovation community in urging the European Commission to formalise the UK’s association to Horizon Europe without further delay.”

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